American Cuts Premium Flights To Boston

Filed Under: American

Well that didn’t last very long.

American’s most comfortably equipped domestic aircraft are their Airbus A321Ts. These planes are in a three cabin configuration with only 102 seats, including 10 first class seats, 20 business class seats, and 72 economy seats. To say that they represent quite a contrast to the rest of American’s narrow body fleet would be an understatement.

American A321T first class

Historically these planes flew primarily from New York to both Los Angeles and San Francisco.

American’s Los Angeles to Boston premium experiment

As of late 2018, American decided to expand service with these planes. While American has shrunk in Boston significantly over the years, Los Angeles is a big focus city for them. So as of December 2018, American started flying A321Ts between Los Angeles and Boston.

Their strategy here was a bit odd. Not all flights were operated by A321Ts, but rather they operated up to two daily flights with these planes, while the other flights were operated by “typical” domestic planes.

So while this was a huge improvement for those who booked one of these flights, it also probably didn’t help with managing expectations.

Well, unfortunately it looks like this experiment didn’t last long. Looking at American’s schedule, American is no longer scheduling A321Ts between Los Angeles and Boston as of September 4, 2019.

What went wrong?

I think it’s safe to say that this experiment didn’t work out too well for them. While American will still operate up to 5x daily flights between the two cities, all flights will be operated by regular domestic aircraft. This is in spite of the fact that Delta, JetBlue, and United, all offer flat beds in business class between the cities.

What went wrong here? Of course my first instinct is to say that American simply isn’t a premium airline, so with the competition they probably had a hard time getting market share.

But there’s probably more to it. I think American was just offering too much premium capacity per plane. There’s no doubt a market for some flat beds between Los Angeles and Boston, though aircraft with just 30 premium seats and 72 economy seats are tough to turn a profit on unless there’s a ton of premium demand.

Delta 757 business class

Delta, JetBlue, and United all offer 14-16 business class seats on these flights, which probably more reasonably reflects the demand. The only comparable plane that American has is the 757, and that offers a decidedly not premium experience in both business class and economy, even in comparison to the 757s that Delta and United fly.

Are you surprised to see American cancel their premium flights between Los Angeles and Boston?

(Tip of the hat to Cranky Flier)

  1. Will LAX-JFK sees the reduced 1x freq back in schedule? or the spared birds flying somewhere else?

  2. I heard a rumour that AA will be moving the A321T frequencies to Philadelphia . . . the AA City of the Future.

  3. As someone who travels this route frequently, AA is almost consistently the most expensive among the big 4 in business class. JetBlue and Delta have also been spending big on marketing in the Boston area so it’s not surprising that AA was having trouble making this work.

  4. The Delta 757’s I’ve been on in first are really nice compared to the older 757’s I’ve seen with United or American. They aren’t lay flat but appear newish.

    Maybe American can move these A321T planes to say Chicago or I hear St. Louis has some old TWA gates still open and run flights to Hawaii or Alaska.

  5. I don’t think that there is a lack of demand for premium seats originating in Boston. I think it’s moreso that Boston is oversaturated and AA is pricing above Jetblue and Delta. AA could def switch that A321T to Philly and see how that works.

  6. AA has given up on Boston (which made this move shocking in the first place) . . . RIP flights to LHR, LAS and SFO. And au revoir to me.

  7. AA’s fares have been ridiculous on this route, even on the uncompetitive 737. The timing of the 32B flight has also been less than ideal, in my opinion.

    B6 and DL are a bit better priced, but UA has been very low in premium cabin costs.. paid less than 400 dollars one way to fly from BOS-LAX last month on the 757 with lie flats and it was perfectly fine. And no worries about (pseudo) mechanical delays.

    Where is this plane going, though? PHL? AA’s morning services from LAX-PHL have been plagued with cancellations and delays the past month.

  8. And to echo what DaninMCI says above, a premium service flight (lie flats or not) from LAX-ORD is long overdue.

  9. Isn’t AA down 1 A321T due to the runway collision on take off a few months ago on a JFK-LAX flight? I read on another site that the aircraft involved may have to be written off? If so, that might explain the BOS route losing the A321T as it might be needed for JFK. I doubt AA will put the A321T on the PHL-LAX/SFO runs. That would make no sense as PHL is less premium heavy than NYC or BOS and for LAX at least, it’s hub to hub.

  10. That’s typical AA for you. Did they even advertise the special service? Nope. DL, B6 and UA dominate BOS anyhow.

  11. How about moving to MIA-LAX.

    I believe AA commands quite the premium on that route. At least historically.

  12. I flew LAX-BOS red eye in United 757 business class last Saturday. There was no pillow or a reasonable blanket offered. Is this normal? I thought LAX-BOS was one of their premium routes.

  13. i wonder if they’ll try to compete with DL on the DCA-LAX. It sure would beat the Oasis crap that was/is on this route

  14. I’ve long said airlines should invest in lay flat on the 5+ hour flights with 12-18 seats I could see them attracting the business folk who endure nyc-phx red eye (which ua already has 1x daily lie flat) or the likes…but 30 prem seats will only work in heavy markets

  15. Why AA isn’t using a two-cabin config for premium domestic service but they went for a 3-cabin settings? Any idea?

  16. Matt,
    I’ve flown UA Biz a couple of times between BOS-SFO, all times was given a Polaris duvet, small amenity kit, and pillow. Additionally, I’ve found that United’s lieflat seats may appear less swanky than the competition, but provide the best sleeping experience.

  17. Morely,
    It is my understanding that many studio contracts and business agreements mandate “three cabin first” when available, making AA the only game in town

  18. @Matt-

    BOS-LAX is not considered a PS (Premium Service) route, BOS-SFO is. No pillow or duvet – one small blanket. I don’t understand that,, but it’s what you get for the cheaper price, I guess. I’ve only ever taken the flight during the day, so it’s been fine, but for a transcon red eye in business that is unreasonable.

  19. @UA752 –

    This was definitely not a film / tv / music route like you’d imagine JFK-LAX is. Maybe a tech-heavy route, but not the same as SFO in that sense, by a long shot. I think that might’ve been where AA was shortsighted on this one.

  20. I sure wish AA would give up on MIA the way they’re giving up on Boston. I’d have to say that MIA is the worst run hub of any US airline bar none. There are more delays, cancellations, bad customer service by AA on MIA than any other airline. I’m always willing to make a connection, than to fly non-stop on AA from MIA

  21. Fares weren’t great and terminal B has been a mess of construction for a while. Only just “unveiled” new central area today. DL and B6 seem are power players with UA offering good prices a lot, but less ideal time tables.

  22. The other impact Is that there is no longer A321T service between Boston and JFK( in fact no service at all). Presumably those were meant to position the A321Ts to Boston.

  23. I like to think BOS has a high demand for low yield passengers. All those students at MIT, Harvard, BU, Boston College etc looking for a cheap weekend getaway to the west coast are most definitely not flying F and J.

  24. I think this is a case or “go big or go home”. JetBlue dominates the J class transcon market from BOS to many markets with Mint so much so that they often command a price premium.

    For those of you who don’t think BOS can support a premium market, have you visited Boston recently? It’s not the poor red-headed stepchild of NYC anymore. Plus, there are plenty of rich college students that can afford a premium experience (think international). The number of international nonstops seems to grow literally by the month.

    I’m no lover of Boston. In my mind, JetBlue having a hub there is a serious bright spot in spite of the somewhat skanky airport, not so great weather much of the year and surly and snobby attitude of some Bostonians.

  25. @WP

    What a stupid statement. Because students at MIT, Harvard, Boston College, etc., some of the most expensive and prestigious higher education institutions in the WORLD, where students from around the globe come, have no money.

    Have you ever been to Boston? There’s a reason we have the most expensive living costs alongside NYC and SFO. It’s extremely wealthy and affluent city. This isn’t Baltimore, where airlines like Southwest and Spirit dominate. Get a clue you idiot…

    AA canceling the A321T out of Boston has nothing to do with Boston not being a premium marketing, and everything to do with AA not being a premium airline. AA has added and pulled three class services from YYZ-LAX and MIA-LAX multiple times, only to then add them back (MIA). AA is a poorly run airline that simply cannot compete on premium services. THAT is why this is being cancelled.

  26. I would love to see AA try this on the DCA-LAX route. They only have a small number of flights (I think two a day?), so could easily transfer these over.

  27. After four recent PHL transcon flights in first on AA’s normal A321, this would be welcomed in PHL if they want me to continue to pony up for first.

  28. I think part of the problem may have been the timing of the flights American is offering its Flagship service on this route…. From LAX to BOS one of those Flagship flights is a 9:55 p.m. redeye which may have limited demand. The other flight is at 7:50 a.m. and seems to have substantial more demand. The return flights may have slightly more desirable times at 6:30 a.m. (maybe a bit too early?) and 5:20 p.m.
    Finally, the pricing of the business and first class seats may have been just too high for this market. On busy holiday periods the fares skyrocketed, which probably made the premium seats hard to sell.
    Sadly, I am a One World flyer and go to Boston and Cape Cod often and will no doubt flip back to flying JetBlue Mint and/or Delta and United for many of my trips as I do truly prefer the lie flat seats and better service.

  29. I am not surprised what I have heard about American’s changes on the Boston to California run. I am American Executive Platinum as I book all my long haul British Airways flight into my American miles account NOT because I fly American. I use these miles for my wife wants to fly from JFK to Europe. I will not fly American unless I absolutely have to. It clearly is a notch down in First or Premium from Delta and no were as pleasant as Jet Blue.

    Frankly, what US Air (the heritage company that merged and with American and is the dominant partner) did to American is very sad. I used to fly American on business back in the 1970s and 1980s on its wide bodies (including 747s) from JFK to LAX monthly and sometime twice a month. It was excellent in all respects.

    My last transcontinental flight on American was from Boston to LAX in first class about 5 years ago on a 757. Very uncomfortable flight with marginal service.

    I really don’t know what airline I would use in premium from the East Coast to Lax anymore. I think I am going to give Jet Blue a try.

    I think that American has embraced a business model that does not call for premium service on most of its routes. It will survive due to reduced completion.

  30. Agree with others that the timing of the route wasn’t great. I’ve wanted to fly it several times but ended up on a typical boring 2-class plane, usually with every seat packed to the gills. So it’s not an underutilized route (and anything to/from LA has more than enough premium), but it feels like they never really tried. Bummer.

  31. I’ve flown this route for 10 years.. LA to Bos or New England. It’s really a jumping point for so many New England destinations including Portland, Manchester and many other popular areas. It’s one of the details I think AA doesn’t quite get. That so many are just going to BOS to get to other places in New England.
    I really liked that AA had introduced that configuration but the FC always went quite empty and they don’t offer upgrades when you buy a biz class and want to use Electronic upgrades. Many times this summer I got upgraded from economy for fares around $290-$345 one way.. but I’m sad to hear it is discontinuing. Jet blue fares in biz can run amazingly low depending on which day and time. I’ve managed to get a one way for between $499 and $599 several times and got the single seat every time.

  32. To the comment about it only being September this is not correct. I have a reservation in Feb 2020 and the seat map has now changed and I’ve been assigned a new seat in first (recliner seat) rather than the lie flat business seat I had chosen before. This was an Avois redemption I made deliberately for the lie flat seat. Does anyone know the best option here? Try to change to LAX-JFK? Cancel altogether to get miles back? Other options? Thanks

  33. I had a round trip booked 9/18 to 9/23 in Flagship Business on the A321T BOS-LAX. AA switched the equipment on June 10th and put me in Domestic First (a Major step down in both hard and soft product). I was told by AA at the time (via DM on Twitter) that if I was unhappy with the change I could cancel and PAY $150 to redeposit the miles used. It now appears that AA knew at that time they were discontinuing Flagship service between BOS-LAX and yet even to this day there’s been no announcment OR any attempt to reasonably compensate those who booked Flagship First or Business and were switched to Domestic first in any way for this inconvienience!.
    At minimum, those who booked Flagship First or Business and were switched to Domestic First because of discontinuance of the service should be given AT LEAST complimentary Admirals Club access in BOS and LAX

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